Pastor Jud Wilhite shared three things that can help Christians emerge victorious in the midst of the mess and pain they often come across in life, as guest speaker at Saddleback Church in Southern California.
Pastor Wilhite, Senior Pastor at Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada, based his sermon, "Following Jesus in the Mess," given last Sunday, on the Book of Revelation.
Wilhite said Revelation is not just about the future, it was written to encourage Christians who were facing difficult times. He read out the first verse of Chapter 1, "This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John."
"We normally know Jesus as a humble, loving servant, which He is. But Revelations gives us the bigger picture of who Jesus is, in His glory," the pastor said, adding that Jesus is also a conquering warrior.
"If we have to sum up the Book of Revelation in one phrase, it would be, 'Jesus wins,'" he said. "And through faith we can share in His victory."
The first thing people in difficult times should remember is to recognize the "real Jesus," Wilhite said. "In our culture, we find many images of Jesus – for example, a cool guys who's always with us and doesn't demand anything from us. But Revelations give us a bigger and different picture."
He quoted Revelation 1:4-5a: "Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before His throne; and from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world."
"When Revelation was being written, Paul had been killed, other Christians were being persecuted and John had been exiled. But the picture of Jesus that emerges is that He was still at large, still working and moving and was in charge. Let's remember who Jesus is when we are in the mess," he said. "Look beyond the immediate, and see who Jesus is; our problems are not bigger than God."
The second thing to remember is that people can share in Jesus' victory, the pastor said.
He shared a story of how his son broke the rear glass of their minivan "accidentally" as he was trying to throw a rock between the minivan and their other car. And the rock hit the minivan. He created a mess. Somebody had to pay for it and get it fixed, Wilhite said.
"We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. So when we are in the mess, remember Jesus made it right. We got to hang on to that by faith," he added, and quoted Revelation 1:5b-6, "All glory to Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding His blood for us. He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God Hid Father. All glory and power to Him forever and ever! Amen."
For the first few years after he became a Christian, after being a drug addict and having many other problems, Wilhite said he tried to "perform" to try to "make up for the past," until he realized his notion was a mistake later.
"Do you believe deep in your heart that God has forgiven you?" he asked the congregants. "You'll never be good enough… you'll never be able to keep that up long-term. After our failure, we realize we can do this only through the grace and mercy of God," he said. "The good news is that God determined what the price was, and He paid it."
He stressed, "If you don't believe God has forgiven you, you are actually saying that God needs to do more for your forgiveness, and that Jesus' sacrifice was not enough. The Bible says Jesus was more than enough" for our forgiveness. God has made us Kingdom of priests, he reminded the audience. "You're not the sum total of what the bully says on the playground… or what you have gone through… You're the sum total of what God says you are… You have a new identity… You share in His victory."
He then quoted Revelation 2:17, "And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it." The white stone represented someone who won a victory at the time, he explained.
"You might be in a mess, but you are not done in that mess... You have a white stone of victory."
The third thing to remember when you are in the mess is, look forward to Jesus' return, Pastor Wilhite said.
We often fail to look beyond the pain. Someone who goes to the gym lifts weights and endures pain so that she or he can develop strength and muscles. The weight we are carrying in this life is temporary, according to Revelation, he said. "We got to hang on to the hope of Christ's return."
Revelation 1:7 states, "Look He comes with the cloud of heaven. And everyone will see Him – even those who pierced Him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for Him. Yes! Amen!"
Finally the wrong will be made right; we will live with God forever in heaven, Wilhite said.
The pastor recalled his father's death at 87. He was a veteran who fought in World War II. In the ICU room of a hospital, he looked at Wilhite and his sister, and said, "You are good kids. I love you. I'm going for a walk in the sunshine. I'll see you on the other side." These were the last words he ever said to them.
"After that moment, I walked out of that hospital room with a sense of clarity that so much of what I pursue in my life just doesn't matter... All that matters is your relationship with God, and your relationship with the people around that bed," Wilhite said, with tears in his eyes.
At the end of the day, it's about loving God and loving others, he said before concluding his message.